22 April – 19 May 2023: McCaw Allan – a tea towel collection
Exhibition: McCaw Allan – a tea towel collection
From Saturday 22 April to Friday 19 May 2023, the R-Space Gallery in Lisburn hosted an exhibition entitled ‘McCaw Allan – a tea towel collection’, which celebrated the humble tea towel.
The exhibition was curated by contemporary artist Robert Peters, and showcases the tea towel designs of McCaw Allan & Co. Ltd (now part of the Samuel Lamont & Sons Ltd.); the last surviving name of over 30 linen businesses that formerly operated in the town, which together established Lurgan as a leading centre of linen manufacture in Ulster.
Within the exhibition nearly 200 tea towel examples were displayed, along with original design drafts and sketches, which have been lovingly catalogued and preserved by Douglas Mowbray, the purchase manager of Samuel Lamont & Sons, who first joined McCaw Allan as 15 year old apprentice in 1972.
The designs, eye-popping colours and finishing of the tea towels are an enduring tribute to the creativity and skill of McCaw Allan workforce, while also offering an insight into changing social norms, tastes and manufacturing processes over the past 50+ years. This history is contextualised in an accompanying publication by linen archivist Fiona McKelvie. You can view a copy of the booklet by clicking: McCaw Allan – a tea towel collection
The exhibition was the result of a collaboration between the R-Space Gallery, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; and the Lurgan Townscape Heritage Scheme, an initiative supported by the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and the National Lottery players through The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
At the exhibition launch Dr Sally Montgomery from The National Lottery Heritage Fund Northern Ireland Committee commented:
“We are delighted to support this tea towel collection exhibition, which thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, will mean that more people will be able to learn about the fascinating heritage of Lurgan’s linen industry. Heritage has a huge role to play in instilling pride in communities and the activities of the Lurgan Townscape Heritage Scheme is a fantastic example of achieving that aim”
Find out more about the history of McCaw Allan by viewing the below interview by Douglas Mowbray: